I am not usually one to observe things like Lent. Many of us who are members of the Religious Society of Friends believe that no one day is more holy than the other; and that we should hold ourselves to high standards of work and self sacrifice every day.
But not all Quakers feel that way about holidays. Many observe Christmas and Easter in the same fashion as other Protestant Christians with gifts, family gatherings, and festivities centered around their children. And, I know a couple of Friends who observe Lent as a spiritual discipline, doing one additional and prayerful chore daily during the forty days of the Lenten season. This is an expansion of their daily devotional prayer and study.
Other Christians I know who observe Lent follow the tradition of giving up something that they get pleasure from for the duration. One person I know gives up social media during Lent. These friends have inspired me.
The practice of a Lenten fast is to help someone to grow spiritually. Giving up something we enjoy is meant to make more space for the Holy Spirit in our lives. That seems like something I could use. So this year I am trying my own variation on these practices.
Starting today I am giving up the time spent watching television news in bed before starting my daily work. When I have insomnia this can begin quite early. I have been thinking that this is not is not as productive as it could be. Regardless, I still get up and start my day at just about the same time most people do. And, I put in a full eight sometimes ten hour day. But because my office is in my home I have the luxury of using the "commuting" time any way I want. Instead of watching the news I am going to use this time for prayer and writing.
One reason early Quakers rejected things like Lent was that they felt that they had become empty rituals. People went through them in a perfunctory way and they did not really help them to be any closer to God. The practice had lost its meaning and had no lasting effect on them. I am hoping that my Lenten discipline will last beyond Easter and I will give up early morning news in bed altogether.
I can't say that the writing I do during this time will all be made public or that I will begin to observe Lent every year going forward. But this year I am going to use Lent as an opportunity to improve my personal discipline and enrich my spiritual journey. Perhaps on the way I'll discover a few other ways I can become a better person.